February 16, 2019
By Larry Case
Check out this video to learn how to manage your small track of land to bag your trophy buck.
“Kanawha County consists of 911 square miles, and 798 square miles of that are considered deer habitat,” said Kem Shaw, District Five Wildlife Biologist for the WVDNR. “In 2017 a total of 2482 deer were harvested and the buck gun harvest was 1046. That equals 1.31 bucks harvested per square mile of deer habitat, and this total is slightly under the five-year average of 1.44.”
Shaw noted that hunting success varies according to which section of the county you choose to hunt in. Eastern Kanawha County has rugged terrain that reminds hunters of southern West Virginia, and the Paint Creek and Cabin Creek drainages are rough places to hunt. This difficulty in hunting allows the deer to reach impressive size, and a large percentage of the deer racks entered in the Big Buck Contest come from this part of the state. Western Kanawha County has better deer habitat so deer densities are higher. The deer kill is typically highest in this part of the county, but racks aren’t as good as the eastern section. The terrain permits easier hunting so the bucks normally don’t grow as old as those in the rougher eastern part.
Two wildlife management areas are available in Kanawha County. One is Morris Creek WMA, located near Clendenin, West Virginia and accessible on County Route 67 along Morris Creek, on by County Route 65 which follows Leatherwood Creek. Morris Creek spans almost 10,000 acers and the terrain is, to say the least, rugged. Kanawha State Forest is almost equal in size to Morris Creek and can be access south of Charleston off State Route 214 by following signage to the forest. While some might say Kanawha State Forest is located too close to the urban area of Charleston, it is almost 10,000 acres and you may very well be surprised at the bucks you find there.
Looking at a map of Kanawha County you will quickly see a huge portion of the eastern part of the county (almost everything south of Rt. 119 and east of Interstate 77) is some big country, much of it owned by coal and timber companies. Most of this area is available to hunters. Some of this area is available for leases and a thorough scouting trip would be in order if you decide to hunt this area.
“If you look at the terrain east of Charleston, WV and west of that city, the differences are striking,” said Dan Kessel, owner of Spring Hill Rod and Gun (www.springrodandgun.com 304-768-2090), a popular hangout for hunters in South Charleston. Dan is an experienced deer hunter and stays tuned in to local hunters at his shop.
“When you leave Charleston going east you are immediately faced with country that is dotted with old strip mines and the topography is very rugged,” Kessel said. “What it boils down to is if you hunt this area you are often looking at a one- or two-hour hike to get to where you want to hunt, through some very steep country.”
Kessel pointed out that most hunters just don’t want to face this, so you are going have a lot less competition. He noted that he knew hunters who routinely carry a change of clothes when hiking in to a stand. Once there they will change from sweaty attire to wear scent free clothes on the stand. This will give you some indication of how arduous the hike may be.
If you agree with the notion that nothing worthwhile is easy, hunting for big bucks in the country like Fayette and Kanawha counties may be for you. Don’t expect a leisurely 30-minute walk to put you in deer country, but you may stand a chance of collecting a buck that will leave your hunting buddies green with envy.